Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pirates of the Caribbean with the SSO

Long have I resisted the musical call of the Disney/Bruckheimer "Pirates of the Caribbean," but I lately have caved in to my inner pirate (though in a legitimate way).

First came the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Tokyo Disneyland. Then I bought the soundtrack while over in Japan. Today I attended the concert performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Opera House, along with one of my brothers and his wife.

The principal composer Klaus Badelt was joined by his Media Ventures colleagues, including boss Hans Zimmer, in writing the music for the film. Media Ventures (now Remote Control Productions) soundtracks tend to have a similar sound about them and Pirates was no exception. The music is a guilty pleasure, like fast food. Easily digested with an immediate flavour hit. But it doesn't contain the subtleties of composers like Williams and Goldsmith that often only reveal themselves through repeated listening.

The orchestra, conducted by American Richard Kaufman, was performed to the film and dialogue projected on the a screen behind them, much like an actual film scoring.

I'm not a huge fan of these type of concerts as it is easy to focus more on the movie than the music.  But better this than no music and you get good at filtering when you are a film music buff.

The orchestra certainly has to be in its toes as there US no room for slipups. And I don't think there were any. We were seated in the middle of the very front row. These were cheap seats as the screen was obscured. What they gave in return were wonderful views of the strings and the conductor, so close you could smell his BO wafting down.

The bombastic music kept the string section busy, with some lovely individual cello passages and the menacing ostinato that surprised in its complexity and vigor. The percussion was well defined and drove the action. The Cantillation male choir added wordless vocals. This music, like the movie that it accompanied, was there to be enjoyed for its action and excitement, not for its originality and deep artistry, and it certainly achieved its aim, the music propelling itself to a pounding finale.

A very fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Arrrrr!

Update: After listening to the soundtrack again I realise that one of the great things about attending a live concert was that the music didn't sound like it was generated by a synthesizer. I suspect Media Ventures filter their sound way too much.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rock'n'roll and alcohol

A tremendous, almost deafening, crash reverberated against the brick walls of the neighbourhood, waking us from our slumber. It was 2am. My first thought was a lightning strike right next to the house without any warning rumbles. The next mental explanation: The neighbour's tree falling into our garage, smashing the car. I got up to investigate, B woke, but somehow Alex remained asleep.

Opening the door, still bleary eyed, I spotted a small boulder rolled against our porch. A landslide triggered by the rain, which was still falling? It was difficult to believe. Then I stepped outside.

A black Mazda 3 embedded in bushes towards the top of our driveway, interior lights still one. I hurried up to investigate, fearing that people were trapped inside requiring medical attention. Then I heard a "Sorry. I'm so sorry."

The lone driver, a young man, was standing at the top of our driveway, obviously shaken, apologising, admitting that he had too much to drink. He handed me his keys.

We gave him a phone to call his parents, only a couple of blocks away, then called the police ourselves.

Both soon turned up. Both were very courteous. The young man returned an over the limit reading on the breathalyzer and was taken away for a blood alcohol test.

The morning revealed the extent of the damage. The car was a write off, its front smashed in, one wheel wrenched off, all driver airbags deployed. It had been driving at speed up a steep hill, gone off at a tangent at the curve, mounted the kerb, smashed the top of the neighbour's retaining wall, become airborne and ripped up the murraya and callistemon shrubs between our houses, knocking a big stone down our driveway and destroying a pot that had been with us since the early days of our last house.

It was fortunate that a large dead eucalyptus tree had been removed months before as he may well have suffered serious injuries and the tree done major damage to either us or our neighbour's property had it collapsed.

The car was towed away and the guy and his father carried away the fallen shrubs and scrap in their trailer to the tip. Driving under the influence of alcohol meant that their insurance would not pay for the damage, or the smashed car, but fortunately it appears that the property damage is fairly minor anyway - for us, not them.

We frequently hear people hooning around these tight curves, certain of their superior driving skills. They don't realise how close they come to seriously injuring themselves or those that live along the street. Hopefully one now realises his stupidity in drink driving and how close he came to killing himself.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reinventing the wheel - enterprise style

When management say they want to minimise support costs by settling on a single enterprise platform for websites what this can mean is that they are stifling an organisation's flexibility and capacity to innovate. Big enterprise systems often lack functionality that, while not traditionally popular in a corporate environment, can be highly popular across the general internet (social media being a case in point) or for specialist tasks. By their very nature, it can be relatively difficult to add functionality to such systems, especially when you do not want to impact upon their stability and usability of the main websites. The response, which may be valid, is usually that by using a single system you can take advantage of integration across your platform.

Allowing non-integrated third party platforms to be installed may increase support risks, but it can have allow organisations to rapidly respond to users' and customers' needs and enhancing satisfaction. As such, it should be considered as a valid strategy.

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